Transgender Day of Visibility: What Munroe Bergdorf, Paris Lees and other trans people want you to know

Joanna Whitehead
Photo by Can Nguyen/REX

Tuesday marks Transgender Day of Visibility, an international observance to celebrate transgender people around the globe and the raise awareness of the challenges they face.

Trans people continue to face profound levels of discrimination and violence in the UK: Home Office figures released in October revealed a 37 per cent increase in the number of reported transphobic hate crimes to 2,333 in 2018. Figures obtained by the BBC in June revealed the number of transgender hate crimes recorded by police in England, Scotland and Wales had risen by 81 per cent.

LGBT charity Stonewall estimates two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident in the past year.

In honour of the trans and gender non-conforming people whose lives have been lost to acts of transphobic violence, Transgender Awareness Week closes with Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) on 20 November.​

According to Transrespect Vs Transphoba Worldwide (TvT), a project monitoring the number of trans and gender diverse people killed globally, 331 people were killed between 1 October 2018 and 30 September 2019 because of their identity.

At present, the UK does not have a formal system for recording such incidents.

So what can we do to support this community? The Independent spoke to seven people about what they want you to know.

Paris Lees

Writer, model and campaigner

"Stop demonising a majority based on the actions of an extreme minority"

Paris Lees (Danny Baldwin)

“I'm sick of being told that trans people are causing all these problems for the rest of society. There's just no evidence for it. I keep reading all this stuff about a tiny handful of criminals who happen to be trans and how it proves all trans people are a threat. OK, well, Jeffrey Dahmer was gay. Does that mean all gay people are evil? No. Are all women bad because Rose West was? Of course not. You don't demonise and discriminate against a whole group of people because of a few extreme examples.

"I was born with male genitalia. Now I'm a woman. It's not a problem for my family, my friends, or my romantic partners - or indeed people in my local area or anyone else I come into contact with. I'm trans. What, exactly, is the problem?”

Fox Fisher

Trans activist, advisor to All About Trans and director at My Genderation

"Allies are important in challenging transphobia"

Fox Fisher (Sharon Kilgannon)

"Trans people need you to step up and and stand up for them to challenge everyday transphobia. This might be a derogatory comment about a famous trans person, or a transphobic joke someone said at work. It’s about showing people that these views aren’t acceptable and that you support trans people.

"When people see others supporting and standing up for trans people, it shows people that it’s not okay to put trans people down. It also becomes easier for others to support trans people when they see others doing it first.

"Trans people: you are loved, you are valid and you deserve respect. Seek out people who support you, and never settle for anything less. You deserve to live your life how you want it, and there is no right or wrong way to be you."

Fox and Owl Fisher have a new film out for trans awareness month called Watch Me Exist. Watch it here [content note: suicide, dysphoria, dead-naming, mispronouning]

Munroe Bergdorf

Model and activist

"Trans people continue to face violence – in all its manifestations"

Munroe Bergdorf (Luke Nugent)

"Black transgender women continue to face escalating levels of violence. Transgender hate crimes in the UK have risen 81 per cent in the past year."

Jay Hulme

Performance poet, activist and educator

"We're just regular people"

Jay Hulme (Picture courtesy of Jay Hulme)

"The main thing people should know about trans people is that we're just regular people. Our lives aren't centred around being trans. The only time that being trans is a big thing is when we're first working out who we are, and other major decisions, such as if and when we choose to medically transition and such.

"I go weeks without thinking much about the fact that I'm trans, if at all. When you've been given the support you need to become comfortable in yourself and your gender, it just fades into the background. Your gender becomes as natural and unremarkable as it is for cis people. It's just... who you are."

Juno Roche

Author of Trans Power and Queer Sex

"Not everyone wants to ‘pass'" ['Passing' is when a trans person is perceived as the gender they wish to be although, as Juno references, this is a controversial term which can imply there’s something false about a trans person’s authentic self​]

Juno Roche (Picture courtesy of Juno Roche)

"Not every trans person wants to be just like a cisgender person [someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth] and disappear into a normative society.

"For a good deal of trans people, trans is our destination. I’m happy for the world to know me as trans. I don’t need the world to know me as ‘cis’. When people say ‘trans women are women’, it doesn’t create space for people like me who say, ‘well, I don’t feel like a woman, I don’t feel like a man – gender’s a problem for me’.

"That’s not to diminish other people’s choices - it’s about opening up more space. Trans has been the only thing that has given me a freedom around gender.

"I have to say that the future is looking very bright. Young people have got a fantastic handle on gender and what it means and how they should own it. Young people are playing an important role in changing things and bringing a lot of good to the world."

Owl Fisher

Director at My Genderation, columnist and advisor to All About Trans

"You don't have to understand us to respect us"

Owl Fisher (Sharon Kilgannon)

"You don’t have to fully understand trans issues to respect trans people - it’s about respecting that everyone has their own individual lives and that they deserve to live it to the fullest as themselves.

"It’s important to respect all trans people and who they are, not just the ones that ‘pass’ [are perceived as their chosen gender] or conform to society’s norms of looks and beauty. Everyone deserves to be respected in who they are, regardless of how they look or where they are in their journey."

Rain Dove

Activist and model

“Accepting trans lives allows greater freedom of expression for all”

Rain Dove (Picture courtesy of Rain Dove)

“Look at trans/non-binary/queer identities not as an issue of identity politics, but a free speech one.

"Whether you approve of our labels or not, as long as we are not getting in the way of food, shelter, water, physical safety and freedom of movement for anyone, we all have the right to our own paths of existence. Impeding our own personal journeys is impeding your own because getting in the way of [our] free expression justifies obstructing yours.”

Rain is a panel member at Feeld's monthly social on 20 November on the subject of Fluid Identities and the Right to Self Define

Read more

Anti-trans activists are taking the power out of Pride